Pilar Gerasimo, Experience Life Founding Editor

Revolutionary Acts

Experience Life founding editor Pilar Gerasimo shares her renegade perspectives for thriving in a mixed-up world.

Posts Tagged RevolutionaryAct.com

Experience Life Magazine

1. Defy Convention

Disruptive innovation is all the rage in business circles these days, but until recently, it wasn’t so popular in the health and fitness world.

That’s changing now, and thank goodness for that.

For far too long, we’ve been fed a steady stream of not-so-great advice. (“Eat low-fat and low-calorie! More grains and dairy! More cardio sessions! More willpower!”)

We’ve been offered a lot of not-so-great medical counsel. (“Er, we don’t actually know what’s causing that chronic problem, so here, just take this prescription.”)

We’ve sensed that these approaches weren’t working for us, and yet we’ve been a little afraid to strike out on our own. We weren’t sure where to go, or how.

The Renegade Path

For me, defying convention has never been about wanting to be different. It has been about wanting to have a snowball’s chance in hell of staying healthy in a world that has often seemed intent on making me sick, fat, and depressed.

That’s why we created Experience Life back in 2001. It’s why I later penned my little 10-point chapbook, Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act: A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World, and came up with the 101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy. (Now an interactive Web feature, a poster, and a mobile app, all available at RevolutionaryAct.com.)

We launched RevolutionaryAct.com and the 101 Ways because we realized that a whole lot of us needed more meaningful inspiration and support than we’ve been getting.

We need help with daily choices and perspectives, and in seeing what we’re up against. But we also need support in feeling less like weird, isolated outliers and more like part of a healthy movement that’s gaining steam. Which, I am happy to say, ours is.

Thanks in part to the rise of Web-based and social media, the call for a healthy revolution has spread quickly over the past decade — into forward-thinking food and fitness communities around the globe; into progressive healthcare circles; and, slowly but surely, even into the mainstream media.

But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Because right now, the best, most helpful information still isn’t getting out to a broad enough audience (for a sense of why, see “Decoding Health Media”. ) And the results aren’t pretty:

  • Today, two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese (and our kids are catching up fast).
  • More than 50 percent of U.S. adults are chronically ill; one in three of us has metabolic syndrome (prediabetes), and 90 percent don’t know it.
  • About 70 percent of us regularly take at least one prescription drug. More than 50 percent take at least two.
  • The top-selling prescription drugs are meds for blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, and heartburn — all lifestyle-related conditions that can be greatly improved or healed through lifestyle changes.
  • Seventy-five percent of the money we currently spend on healthcare is used to treat (ineffectively) chronic lifestyle-related diseases.

It’s not just our bodies that are suffering. It’s our minds and spirits. Depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and eating disorders are rampant.

Epidemiological data suggest that fewer than 20 percent of us are mentally and emotionally thriving. The remaining 80 percent, according to psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, are languishing or “living lives of quiet despair.”

The Need for a New Normal

OK, so let’s just stop and mull over those facts for a moment:

  • The majority of the U.S. population is sick, overweight, mentally or emotionally disrupted, or all of the above.
  • Only a relatively tiny minority is healthy, happy, and thriving.

What does it mean that our society reliably produces more unhealthy, unhappy, vulnerable people than healthy, happy, resilient ones?

It means, quite plainly, that our society is sick.

That sickness shows up everywhere. In our bodies, yes, but also in our families and communities, our healthcare system, our food supply, our government, our schools, our religious institutions, our economy, our ecological systems, and especially in our relationships to ourselves and each other.

Fortunately, this is something we can change.

How? By rejecting the unhealthy conventions that are producing all this misery and embracing more promising strategies with fresh hope and enthusiasm. By diligently mastering the renegade healthy choices and healthy skills that matter — and ceasing to waste our time, energy, and resources on things than don’t. By seeing that choosing to be healthy in an unhealthy world isn’t some odious, obligatory chore or a hopeless battle. It’s a transformative hero’s journey. It’s a revolutionary act. It’s a sacred art. And it can be done.

That, in essence, is what this new column of mine is going to be about. In each issue, I’ll explore one of the 101 Ways. And the renegade fun starts right here, with the mother of all Revolutionary Acts: Defy Convention.

So how do you do that? Start by simply noticing how many unhealthy things have become the convenient, default choices in our culture, including giant-size portions, checkout-aisle junk-food displays, and elevators made easier to find than the stairs.

Notice what’s presented (and pushed) as “normal” — in the media, at restaurants, at work, at the doctor’s office, everywhere you go. Realize a lot of it is crazy-making and sickness-producing, and very much in need of some disruptive innovation.

Next, start disrupting and innovating. Push back where you can. Take pride and satisfaction in the ways you are rejecting our society’s mixed-up version of normal in order to reclaim your well-being and your own healthier, happier version of reality.

When that makes you seem weird or different, pat yourself on the back and just keep going. Remember, given where the conventional majority is headed, different is a preferable destination.

That’s where we’re starting, anyway. I hope you’ll dig into the rest of the 101 Revolutionary Ways, both here and online, to see where our convention-defying journey goes next.

Revolutionary Reading


Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act: Renegade Perspectives for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World” — You want to be healthy? Well, hey, that’s wonderful. This article is designed to help you succeed.

A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World Pilar Gerasimo’s 10-point handbook for the healthy revolution.

Fitness Redefined” — Baby boomers, a generation of convention busters, are reshaping expectations when it comes to their personal health and fitness, too.

The Way of the Healthy Person” — If there is any clear path toward the promised land of healthy living, it begins on the fertile ground of our own assumptions, beliefs, and daily choices.

Pilar Gerasimo is a nationally recognized healthy-living expert, author of A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World, and the creative force behind the 101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy. She is currently working on a book about the art of being healthy in an unhealthy world. Learn more about Pilar’s work and connect with her via social media at PilarGerasimo.com.

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Experience Life Magazine

Revolutionary Act No. 1: Exchange Willpower for Willingness

We’ve been taught that following through on new year’s resolutions is all about willpower. But it turns out that willingness may be a far more valuable ally.

One popular characterization of insanity describes it as “doing the same thing over and over, expecting to get a different result.” And at no time of the year is that particular brand of insanity more evident than right now — the dreaded resolutions season.

Every January, there’s a lot of talk about the right and wrong ways to go about making change. Techniques and strategies abound (another serving of S.M.A.R.T. goals, anyone?), but most of them share a common underlying assumption: That changing your life is an act of will.

We Americans love the idea of willpower. It’s forceful, bold, intrepid. It reeks of individual determination, and it suggests just enough stalwart endurance to satisfy our stoic sensibilities.

The will speaks in a commanding voice: Go forth! Make it so! And there’s some kick-start value in that. But I would argue that the real key to creating positive change over time is not so much will as it is willingness.

Unlike the will, which is all the rage this time of year, willingness doesn’t get a lot of airtime in our culture. It comes across as too passive, perhaps, too cooperative, too eager to please, too… feminine. But I’d argue that when it comes to shifting personal behavior and establishing new habits, willingness is actually a much better and more reliable partner.

The problem with the will is that it’s one hard-driving taskmaster — but it tends to cement itself to a static idea of success and, thus, to constant reminders of the potential for failure.

The will tends to think it has all the answers and it doesn’t relish asking for directions.

Willingness, on the other hand, is full of open-minded inquiries, like: How might I go about getting started on this project? What would happen if I tried this? What would be most helpful now?

Where the will never says die, willingness is continually reborn — and it gets smarter and stronger each time around.

That’s why, this year, as my first official Revolutionary Act (a series of convention-busting experiments in changing my life for the better, and the basis for this blog), I’m putting willingness in charge of my new year’s resolutions. Currently, these include: 1) being on time more often; 2) getting outside daily; and 3) never sitting for more than two hours at a stretch. (For a busy magazine editor, all three are tougher than they sound.)

Effectively, my revolutionary shift here is asking, “What I’m willing to do differently in the service of these goals?” — rather than insisting, “I am going to do these things, no matter what it takes.”

I’m also cultivating my willingness to notice when I do and don’t succeed in these endeavors, and to pay attention to how I do or do not go about accomplishing them on a day-to-day basis. Because as Zen teacher Cheri Huber likes to remind us: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

The great thing about seeing my resolutions as an experiment in willingness is that even if I “fail” at something on any given day, I still “succeed” in learning something valuable that empowers me to succeed the next day.

One thing I’ve already noticed, for example, is that my tendency toward chronic lateness (15 minutes, notoriously) has a lot to do with my believing I should/must/need to always do “just one more thing” before I leave the house.

Am I willing to change that? Yes, and: I’m also aware that it yanks at a stubborn, semi-conscious belief I hold about my value coming from what I accomplish, rather than who I am.

That’s a belief worth examining more closely, because it’s probably at the core of some other self-sabotaging tendencies, too. (For deeper insights on the value of challenging limiting beliefs, check out the terrific book, Immunity to Change [Harvard Business School Press, Feb. 2009] by Robert Kegan, Ph.D., and Lisa Lahey, Ph.D.)

So, am I willing to challenge that belief about my value being tied to my frenzied (and often counterproductive) productivity? Yes.

Does the idea of moving beyond my chronic lateness become more energizing and potentially powerful when I think of it in this context? And does it make me more willing to experiment with not doing one more thing? Yes, indeed! Thank you, willingness.

I am choosing to engage willingness because, in my experience, my will has not always been my best ally in creating positive change. In fact, leaning too heavily on my will often brings out the most negative and self-critical in me. And research suggests that this is true for many of us (for more on that, read this fascinating article from Scientific American on “The Willpower Paradox.”

It turns out that the will talks a tough game, but it hates losing — so much so that it is prone to walking away in a huff just as things are getting interesting. Willingness, meanwhile, sees every lost round as an opportunity to sharpen skills, strategy and awareness.

Willingness, in short, is all about learning and growing. And that’s why I’m making it the centerpiece of my Revolutionary Acts project, which is all about experiments in creating a healthier, happier, more satisfying life by doing things a little (or a lot) differently. Differently than we’ve been taught. Differently than we’ve been told. Differently than “that’s just the way things are done.”

Many of my experiments will involve challenging the dominant norms, patterns and assumptions of our society. Others will involve challenging my own comfort zones and beliefs.

I’ll be sharing my experiences in this blog and also in my regular column at Experience Life, the healthy-living magazine I’ve been editing for the past decade.

My goal with this blog, as with the magazine, is to share insights and resources that can help more of us make the most of our time and energy, enhance our well-being, and increase our satisfaction in living. Because I believe that for us to address the biggest challenges we are facing — individually and collectively — we are going to need to be at our strongest, most energized and resilient best.

I hope you’ll share your own revolutionary experiences — of challenging limiting norms and assumptions, of rejecting stale conventions, and of reinventing yourself and your life however you see fit.

Which reminds me: If you’re working on any healthy-living goals this year, you might enjoy visiting www.RevolutionaryAct.com, a site powered by Experience Life and stocked with wisdom from some of our favorite experts. You’ll find a variety of Revolutionary Resources there, including my “Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed Up World” and “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy.”

Here’s to an all-new 2011! And may we all summon the willingness to make it great.